Kate Bonnaud, operations manager of a Costa Mesa wine bar called Wine Lab, remembers clearly when a letter arrived a few months ago from an Orange County man with a bone to pick.

The letter said Wine Lab’s website was inaccessible to visually impaired people like himself because it wasn’t equipped to handle screen-reading software. This meant the site wasn’t in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We took it very seriously — seriously to the point that we took the website down so we could improve it immediately,” Bonnaud told me.

Not long after, however, the letter writer, Dominick Martin, filed a lawsuit against Wine Tribe, Wine Lab’s parent, seeking up to $75,000 in damages and legal costs.

The lawsuit said Martin is a “tester” who seeks to ensure that businesses are in compliance with accessibility rules. It acknowledged that he has filed “multiple lawsuits” in this regard and intends to keep doing so.

“Generally speaking, we tend to see the same serial plaintiffs over and over and over again,” said Dan Danet, the lawyer representing Wine Lab.

“If I had to estimate, I would say there’s maybe 15 to 25 plaintiffs we see over and over in these types of both website and physical cases.”

Danet said that while advocating on behalf of disabled people is honorable, some accessibility-related lawsuits are little more than a shakedown of small businesses that lack the resources for a court battle.

“Sometimes the goal to seek justice, the goal to fix the website, the goal to make it as accessible as possible, kind of takes a backseat to the goal of seeking maximum compensation,” he said.

Martin’s lawyer, Scott Ferrell, declined to let his client be interviewed or to answer questions himself.

He provided a brief statement saying only that “though serial litigants are often unpopular, their work is necessary and desirable to enforce and advance consumer protection statutes.”

Critics disagree.

“If this was really fighting the good fight, these plaintiffs would want the issue addressed, not just stuff money in their pockets and walk away from the situation,” said Victor Gomez, executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a California nonprofit group.

He’s working with state lawmakers on legislation that would impose a grace period after violations of accessibility laws are alleged.

“Allow us to fix the issue,” Gomez said. “Allow these small businesses to fix the issue before you hit them with a $5,000, $10,000, $25,000 lawsuit.”

Bonnaud, the Wine Lab manager, said her company is hoping to settle with Martin. She said if the wine bar has to pay the up to $75,000 demanded in the lawsuit, it could go out of business.

“You want to do the right thing,” she said. “So when you do the right thing and you still get sued, that’s not fair.”